Is soda ash better for washing clothes

Soap for washing clothes

The earliest evidence of the manufacture and use of soap was found on a Sumerian cuneiform tablet that was made more than 2000 years before the Common Era. The board describes how soap is made from vegetable ash and oil, and how it is used to wash woolen clothes. And even today you can still use curd soap for washing, also for wool and fine items.

Washing with soap - a centuries-old tradition

In the days before the washing machine was invented, our clothes were only washed with curd soap, water and soda (or ash). And the first detergents of the 20th century were still based on curd soap: "Persil" and other heavy-duty detergents even contained powdered curd soap as a detergent substance until the end of the 1950s.

It was not until the 1960s that curd soap was replaced by synthetic surfactants in commercial washing powders. The question of whether curd soap can be used to wash clothes can therefore only be answered with a “of course”.

But how exactly do you wash your laundry with soap? And how did washing work without a washing machine? Housewives asked themselves this question 150 years ago.

In the guide "The well-advised housewife in town and country" from 1868, the authors Margaretha Kranich and Mechthilde Maier explain it as follows:

You make a good soap pulp: you actually cut two pounds of soap fine in a bucket, pour something warm water on it, and stir it with a small brush until the cut soap has dissolved. After the laundry has been read and written down, the heavily soiled parts of the lye wash are rubbed with this soap paste, and the pieces are then placed in a tub.

When all the laundry has been put in, 3 parts of water, preferably rainwater, and 1 part lye (both warm) poured over it, and the whole thing left to stand overnight. The following day the laundry is washed out clean, soap is brushed from the washstand, rubbed in with a horsehair rub, and then placed in the washtub, the coarser and dirtier pieces at the bottom, the better ones at the top.

Now make half water, half boiling lye, pour this over the laundry, and then let the laundry cool for a few hours, from which it is rubbed in a second time like the previous one, placed in another tub, scalded with hot water, and finished in the same way. Both with this and the previous type of washing, soda can also be used instead of lye - 1 pound for 150 items of laundry. The finer laundry is treated as indicated for the first type, but a soap pulp can be added if desired during the second scalding.

The basic ingredients: soap, soda and water

The regulation from the 19th century has not lost its validity, especially with regard to the three main ingredients required for washing clothes:

  • Water. The softer (low in lime) the water, the better. The calcium in the water and the soap form sparingly soluble lime soaps that make the laundry hard and gray. Hence the tip about rainwater, because it hardly contains any calcium.
  • Soap. Soap that does not contain excess oil is particularly suitable for washing. The fatty acids contained in the soap are responsible for the cleaning effect: they loosen greasy dirt and transport it from the textile fibers into the washing water.
  • soda as a modern substitute for plant ash. The latter has the disadvantage that it can also contain harmful heavy metals (iron, arsenic, etc.). Soda has two tasks: due to its strongly basic properties, food residues are broken down and the formation of lime soaps is prevented. A milder (less alkaline) alternative to soda is baking soda.

Homemade detergent

Nowadays only very few people will want to wash with a brush, washboard and bleuel. You can safely leave the very physically strenuous work of washing to your washing machine. But if you don't want to use detergent from the supermarket (based on synthetic surfactants), you can use the following recipe to make your own detergent based on curd soap:

  • 100 g curd soap
  • 150 g of soda or baking soda

The curd soap is first finely grated with an ordinary kitchen grater and then mixed with the other ingredients. Depending on the hardness of the water, 1-2 tablespoons of this powder are used per wash. Gloves should be worn when used as a hand wash detergent.

Danger: Soda is strongly alkaline, please observe the safety instructions on the packaging.

Soap as a wool and mild detergent

Commercially available heavy-duty and mild detergents contain bleaching agents as well as certain enzymes (proteases) that break down protein-containing dirt, e.g. from food residues. The problem: wool or silk also consists of proteins, which is why you need a special wool detergent for such textiles. Here, too, curd soap is an inexpensive, environmentally friendly and extremely effective alternative.

A combination with baking soda (sodium hydrogen carbonate) is particularly common: Mix finely grated curd soap in equal parts with baking soda and add 2-4 tablespoons instead of washing powder to the machine, depending on how dirty it is.

Soap to remove stains

Whether it's grass stains, grease stains or red wine stains - soap also removes stubborn stains from laundry. Gall soap is particularly effective here.

Curd soap is also ideal forRemoving stubborn stains (e.g. blood, red wine or grass). To do this, the stains are first moistened with a little water and then rubbed with the curd soap. After about 30 minutes of exposure, the textiles can be washed in the washing machine along with other items of clothing.